The Flag

“Kessler does not raise flags.  Kessler burns flags!!!!!”  And so that was that.  There would be no flag-raising today, and the flag pole stood unadorned all day.  No one batted an eyelash.  Such was life at Camp Da-Ro, a summer camp, populated by about 400 Jewish campers and counselors…and me.

Before you get all up in your righteous flag respecting, My Country Tis of Thee rage keep in mind this was 1970.  These counselors, like Kessler, were faced with the draft and possibly going to fight in a war.  A stupid war, an insane war.  Kessler was a big intimating guy from Brooklyn and if you didn’t like what he had to say, he’d just as soon bust you in the mouth.

And so there was no flag that day.  But the next day there was, and the day after and so on until the end of the summer.  We were only 13 years old in our cabin, and so we did not quite get the significance, but the other counselors did.

Kessler had said his piece, and overseas young boys continued dying and civilians continued to be caught in the crossfire.  And we rode horses, and we water-skied, and we had color wars, and we launched panty raids.  I got a little teasing for being the only non-Jewish camper, but they mostly didn’t care.  I remember the other campers being whip-smart and the adults being kind.  The camp is closed now but if you visit the Hudson River Valley around Germantown the grounds are still there, undeveloped.  It’s a lovely spot.  And that was a wonderful summer spent with kind souls living in the midst of a crazy world.

© Glenn R Keller 2020, All Rights Reserved

The Big Whiff

I saw it coming before he did. It was just too obvious…too many beers, too much PBR apparel. I saw the blonde heading to the table between us and it was like the script was already written.

She seemed nice, at least she was patient you’d have to say.  His radar went off like a sailor in port on payday. He said something to her, admittedly it was kind of funny, I thought so and she did too, at least she laughed. A brief moment of triumph before the inevitable crash and burn.

That the PBR shirt and her Bogner apres ski clothes weren’t gonna mix well was apparent to everyone in the bar…well almost everyone.  He was in that beer fueled optimistic state that all guys experience. Unfortunately, there’s a delicate equilibrium of alcohol and stupidity and when one gets out of balance high comedy ensues. But for some reason she wasn’t shooting him down. That reason soon became apparent when three girlfriends arrived…she wanted to keep the quarry alive until the big guns showed up.

Now the women are giggling and taking potshots at the guy…he doubles down and orders another beer. I wanna tell the guy to stop, to preserve his dignity, but he’s beyond helping. I scope the women in the group, all of them attractive…the redhead especially so.

I lose interest and go back to my book. The bar was clearing out, you could feel it as the bodies left and the temperature dropped imperceptibly. The women were gone except the redhead, I could see her out of the corner of my eye. Then she got up to leave and I turned for a last look…and then I noticed her hand was trailing behind her, it was attached to another hand…that hand belonged to PBR guy.

© Glenn R Keller 2020, All Rights Reserved

Prince Charmin

Reluctantly he grabbed the last 12 pack of toilet paper in the store. He lived alone and didn’t need much but he was down to half a roll and even for a single guy that was cutting it close. He didn’t need 12 but there was nothing else to be had.

Then he noticed the pretty blonde staring forlornly at the empty shelf and knew he’d be giving up his treasure. “Are you out?” She nodded and he turned over the package, “here, I’ve got plenty” he lied, “ you take this”. She protested but he insisted and then she said “I’d hug you but social distance and all…”. He laughed “just my luck”. She smiled and thanked him again and he went to look for a slice of pizza.

He finished checking out and headed to the car working out in his head how he could make the half roll last, and then he saw her again. She’d been waiting for him, and was holding 3 rolls of toilet paper she’d broken out of the package. “Take these…I don’t need 12 of them”. Grateful, he thanked her, and headed home, he was a little upset with himself for not talking to her more but then he didn’t want to turn kind gestures into awkwardness.

He kept thinking about her…she was cute, and kind. Those were two pretty good starting points. A few days later he was getting ready to use one of the rolls and be noticed a dark smudge, he unrolled it a little and there it was, writing as clear as day: “here’s my number, call me and tell me where you are right this minute.” And so he did, and then he knew she was funny too, and that’s all he needed to know.

© Glenn R Keller 2020, All Rights Reserved

Escape Room

Everyone was whooping and hollering and backslapping. Even those in the group that didn’t want to play were in the spirit. They had made the escape with 20 minutes to spare, but more importantly, they had crushed the time turned in by legal by nearly 10 minutes. Now it was time for dinner and some beers.

Brad stood on a chair and got everyone’s attention, he was about to give the directions to the restaurant when Lisa asked “where’s Angela”?

Everyone looked around and started arguing. Some swore they’d seen her in the room, others were just as sure that she’d never been in the room. What everyone agreed on was that she had been in the lobby with the rest of the group. The prevailing theory was that she’d gone to the restroom and missed the start of the game and rather than wait she’d gone ahead to the restaurant.

Brad picked up his phone, and texted her “drinking at the bar already?”. Less than a minute later “I’m good. Had to leave. Gotta go. Bye.” “What the hell”, Lisa got out her own phone and called her. She listened for a minute and put the phone back in her purse. “Straight to voice mail”. The crew was getting restless. One of the guys spoke up “screw it, she’s got some drama, I’m thirsty, let’s go.” Everyone filed out.

Outside, as they walked past the adjacent building, a homeless man jumped up from a grate he’d been sleeping on, “listen! do you hear that!”. The group sped up, the men putting themselves between him and the women. “Listen, listen please!” But they were moving away briskly now and he plopped down on the grate dejectedly. A few other people came by and he implored them to stop but they too walked away. Why do they think I’m crazy…I’m an alcoholic, not a nut case.

Around midnight Kim came by. She was the beat cop for this area and always made a point to make sure her street people were okay. “How you doing Larry?” Larry ran over to her, “can you hear that?” She listened patiently and then said “I think you’ve been hearing voices again Larry”. She pulled a protein bar out of her pack and handed it to him, “try to get some sleep, the street cleaners will be through here early tomorrow”.

Larry watched Kim walk away. He admired her, she treated all the street people just the same as if they were the mayor. But she thinks I’m crazy. Maybe I am. If I were would I know it? He took her advice and curled up under the moldy old sleeping bag. But then there it was again, fainter now “please help me…”, then silence. She’s right, must be I’m crazy. And then he was asleep.

© Glenn R Keller 2020, All Rights Reserved